We moved to our new apartment on New Year’s Eve. Plenty of fireworks to welcome us, although Christopher isn’t a fan. He’s really going to need a lot of cuddling come Chinese New Year in a week or so. In spite of the date, we enquired about getting an internet connection; the bloke came out and did it for us at about 8pm. Take that UK internet providers and especially you, BT-we-can-install-your-service-in-three-weeks-cos-we-can’t-be-arsed.com.
It was dark when we arrived, as we’d been to an all you can eat buffet for lunch before leaving Kaohsiung. Slightly off topic, but that was the best buffet I have ever experienced. Think sushi, think smoked salmon, think ham and beef carved to your requirements, think Haagen Dazs ice cream, think help-yourself Taiwan Beer on tap, think coffee, think cake…. think I feel a bit sick now. Fan-bloody-tastic. If you are out that way, it’s up high in one of the buildings at Kaohsiung Arena – about £20 a pop, I think, but well worth it. We weren’t even paying. (I’ll try to find a link)
Anyway, it was dark. Across the road we could make out a building site. We are on the 12th floor (or 11th in English parlance as the ground floor here counts as the 1st floor) with a great view. I’ve been taking a picture every day:
A few observations: hard hats required but hi-viz jackets are nowhere to be seen and I don’t think they insist on steel toecaps. The job still gets done without too much fuss. They work every day. They stop for lunch, but I don’t see tea-breaks. The scaffolding is modular and very fragile and flimsy looking, but it seems to work okay. There are lots of women working on the site. I’ve yet to hear any wolf-whistling. Christopher loves seeing the diggers, cranes and concrete mixers. DIGGER! MIXER! He’s now obsessed with this:
Such building sites are dotted all over this part of Taiwan. The High Speed Rail station is about three miles away and it has seemingly spawned a massive development process with high-rise, high-value apartment blocks wherever you look. A look on Goooooooogle earth shows imagery from 2003 – mostly farmland. Unrecognisable today. I wonder how much steel and concrete has been added to the landscape in the last ten years? I wonder who will buy all of these apartments? As far as I can make out, £300k is not an unusual asking price, even for a relatively modest gaff near the freeway. Then again, I visited a chap at his home this week. We’d met in one of the countless parks where parents take their children for a stint of R&R. He invited me and the boy for lunch, having told me that he’s retired (age 42). He lives in a lovely home (a new 4 storey house, unusually, not an apartment) with his wife and two children (6 and 2). They have a live-in Indonesian maid. His wife works in the Science Park – 8.30 am to 11pm, Monday to Friday. What kind of a life is that? This is a world about which I know nothing, it seems.
I’ve had a week of good cycling. Twice out into the mountains and once with a group from Hsinchu. Solo, out into the mountains just east of here last weekend I clocked five hours, 73 miles and 6,274 feet of climbing. On the group ride on Tuesday evening (8 ’til 10) I clocked another 37 miles, much of it in the high twenties (mph), peaking at 32mph. Some of these boys are quick and I’m thinking of winter miles, so it was rather painful, but still enjoyable. In the mountains I took a couple of snaps to give you a flavour of what there is to contend with:
The road may well not be there when you round that bend a little too quickly, but some kindly gentleman will probably have provided boulders to arrest your speed and square your rims prior to the descent.
The views can be rather lovely. Not one of the best, but I happened to be stopped to allow my rims to cool down a bit.
In a land of bamboo, what on earth were they thinking when they decided that fake bamboo fencing was a good look? I reckon this is up there with some of the naffest of the naff, with naff paintwork to accentuate the naffness. Did I mention that I think they are naff?
I learnt recently that I can take my Halifax pension already. God, I feel old. It was a nice surprise, though. Not enough income on which to live, but I figure it is a good idea to take it from June (in spite of the major reduction for taking it early) as I feel less and less inclined to return to the proverbial nine-to-five any time soon. That said, taking care of a 2 year old is plenty work enough for this grumpy old pensioner-to-be, so that last comment may have been a bit previous.
I return to the UK for a while in February. Things to sort out; not sure how I will cope on my own again. The boy is growing and developing so rapidly, I fear missing those precious one-off, moments but I really fear him learning more bad habits while being spoiled by his granny. I shall return with a big stick and a cattle-prod.
Are you listening, boy? You have been warned.